The 2022 Hugo nomination deadline is approaching and the Non-Fiction Spotlights are coming fast and furious now. If you’re just joining us, the Non-Fiction Spotlights are a project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that came out in 2021 and are eligible for the 2022 Hugo Awards. For more about the Non-Fiction Spotlight project, go here. To check out the spotlights I already posted, go here.
For more recommendations for SFF-related non-fiction, also check out this Facebook group set up by the always excellent Farah Mendlesohn, who is a champion (and author) of SFF-related non-fiction.
SFF-related reference books and overviews of a certain aspect of the genre have appeared on the Hugo ballot several times, including all three editions of the venerable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. The subject of today’s non-fiction spotlight is a work along those lines and also one that’s dear to my heart, because it focusses on SFF translated into English.
Therfore I’m thrilled to welcome Rachel S. Cordasco, author of Out of This World: Speculative Fiction in Translation from the Cold War to the New Millennium to my blog today.
Out of This World is a reference book for anyone interested in translated speculative fiction since 1960. SFT has been gaining an audience since the Cold War, though it really hit its stride at the beginning of this century. Each chapter, which is introduced by a guest scholar, focuses on a single source-language and the kinds of books that are available to Anglophone readers. The fourteen chapters explore SFT from the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I received my PhD in Literary Studies in 2010 and thought I would become a professor. After a single semester, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen, and I found a job as an editor at a historical society press. When I took a few years off to have my kids, I needed to keep my brain busy and started reading and reviewing science fiction, which I hadn’t read in years since my focus in grad school was American Literary Naturalism. Eventually, my interests in translation and science fiction converged, so I started SFinTranslation.com to track science fiction, fantasy, and horror in translation. My freelancing continued when I went back to my editing job, and somewhere along the line I started translating, as well. A few months ago, life started feeling pretty crazy and I decided to leave the editing job to focus on my kids, my freelancing, and my translating.
What prompted you to write this book?
After building the SFT website, I realized that a lot of the information it contained might be useful in book form. Following a discussion with an editor at the University of Illinois Press, I started writing a book that functions as a reference/analysis text. Each chapter reviews what’s available but also analyzes why certain subgenres are more prominent in some SFTs rather than others. Furthermore, my general introduction to the volume offers an overview of SFT as a subject of discussion (stretching back to the 1970s and even earlier). Hopefully, this book will help scholars in their exploration of world SF, professors who are building world SF courses, and readers just looking for new and interesting stories.
Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?
This book isn’t necessarily the kind of thing you’d read in one sitting by the fire (though you definitely could!). Rather, it’s the kind of book that you’d read to learn about SF from different source languages. You might read the Finnish chapter if you’re interested in Sinisalo or Krohn. Then, if you’ve picked up a work of Japanese space opera at a bookstore, you could turn to the relevant section to learn about that language’s wide variety of hard-science-fiction subgenres. You could even use the index to find themes that span the different SFTs and compose reading lists for your book club. Also, that cover is gorgeous (the people at UIP picked it), so it would be a lovely display for your coffee table.
Do you have any cool facts or tidbits that you unearthed during your research, but that did not make it into the final book?
I did have to cut about twenty thousand words to keep the manuscript within the word limits, but most of what I cut was textual analysis (which wasn’t necessarily crucial). I would love to write a second volume that focuses on underrepresented source languages in SFT: Romanian, Greek, Tamil, Bulgarian, Danish, etc.
SFF-related non-fiction is somewhat sidelined by the big genre awards, since the Nebulas have no non-fiction category and the Best Related Work Hugo category has become something of a grab bag of anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere. So why do you think SFF-related non-fiction is important?
SFF-related non-fiction represents the analysis/discussion side of the larger SFF genre. Authors write fictional texts, and then readers and scholars discuss them. SFF non-fiction is the tangible manifestation of those discussions and is an integral part of the genre ecosystem.
Are there any other great SFF-related non-fiction works or indeed anything else (books, stories, essays, writers, magazines, films, TV shows, etc…) you’d like to recommend?
In terms of SFF-related non-fiction, I highly recommend Ian Campbell’s Science Fiction in Translation: Perspectives on the Global Theory and Practice of Translation. The website https://sciencefictionruminations.com/, which reviews vintage science fiction published from the 1950s through the 1980s, is also a wonderful place for reviews of older SF (including translations) and some of the great SF art of the period.
Where can people buy your book?
You can buy the book directly from UIP (https://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/?id=45sfy6nx9780252043987) or anywhere else you buy books! Also, ask if your local or university library has it.
Where can people find you?
Thank you, Rachel, for stopping by and answering my questions.
About Out of This World: Speculative Fiction in Translation from the Cold War to the New Millennium:
The twenty-first century has witnessed an explosion of speculative fiction in translation (SFT). Rachel Cordasco examines speculative fiction published in English translation since 1960, ranging from Soviet-era fiction to the Arabic-language dystopias that emerged following the Iraq War. Individual chapters on SFT from Japanese, French, and twelve other source languages feature an introduction by an expert in the language’s speculative fiction tradition and its present-day output. Cordasco then breaks down each chapter by subgenre–including science fiction, fantasy, and horror–to guide readers toward the kinds of works that most interest them. Her discussion of available SFT stands alongside an analysis of how various subgenres emerged and developed in different source languages and why some subgenres have been more likely to be translated into English.
An informative and one-of-a-kind guide, Out of This World offers readers and scholars alike a tour of speculative fiction’s new globalized era.
About Rachel S. Cordasco:
Rachel S. Cordasco founded the website SFinTranslation.com. She works as a writer, editor, and translator and is co-translator of Clelia Ferris’s Creative Surgery.
Did you publish a work of SFF-related longform non-fiction in 2021 and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.